Ultra marathoner Kelly Agnew reminds me of when I was running the timed mile in middle school gym class. Back then, while kids like me would rip around the course, other kids would hide behind the generator, then pop out on the last lap, barely winded, and fly through the finish line. Agnew, the White Rim trail record holder and a runner-up at the 2013 Pony Express Trail 100, is like those other kids, but with a different hiding spot: the port-a-potty.
Race officials tracked the decorated ultra-runner’s participation this year in the 24-hour race at Across the Years at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix, Arizona. They discovered that he wasn’t clocking in at a checkpoint halfway through the 1.0498-mile loop. Turns out, he was sitting in a latrine for seven minutes and then jumping out to cross the mat at the start/finish at the exact time he needed to keep his “mile pace” consistent.
Derek Murphy of Marathon Investigation spoke to Mike Melton of MCM timing, who witnessed Agnew as he finished lap 17.
— Derek Murphy (@MarathnInvestgr) January 9, 2018
“As Kelly completed the lap, he stopped after crossing the mat,” Murphy wrote of Melton’s account. “He spent time looking at the monitor located at the timing mat, and went off to the port-o-john. Mike was in the tents near the timing mat where he was able to observe Kelly. Mike observed Kelly for 10 full minutes. He witnessed Kelly as he spent 7 full minutes in the port-o-john. Mike emerged from the port-o-john and proceeded to cross the timing mat, registering a lap that he did not complete, and proceeded to run the next lap.”
Upon being found cheating, Agnew was disqualified from the race, and once data showed he was a multiple-time offender, he was stripped of his previous titles from 2013 to 2016.
“The process Kelly used at Across the Years to circle around and come back through the timing mat without having done a complete loop was so blatant and obvious it could not possibly have been anything but deliberate,” Melton wrote on the ultralist ultra-running listserv. The officials decided to investigate Agnew after he won Across the Years races three times in a row, including in 2014–2015, when he won the 48-hour race by 55 miles, despite stopping after just 41 hours.
It appears it’s not just the Across the Years event he’s missed checkpoints in, either. He’s missed a few checkpoints at other races, including the Leadville 100. The spotty, inaccurate GPS evidence from his record-setting run at the White Rim trail race has since been deleted from his blog. Fellow competitors at the 2017 Lemming Loop race also accused him of skipping out on checkpoints.
Agnew had been on the ultra marathon scene for a few years before experiencing a major breakthrough in 2013, when he started winning races and setting records, like at White Rim. He has not responded to any of the allegations yet. Although his titles and records may be stripped from him, he set a new record in the process that might never be able to be taken away from him: longest time hanging out in a port-a-potty.